Belarus’ Leader Wins Sixth Term with Over 80% of Votes
By Staff, Agencies
Election officials in Belarus said Monday that President Alexander Lukashenko has won his sixth consecutive term, taking over 80 percent of the vote amid protests fueled by frustration with the country’s deteriorating economy, years of political repression and the authoritarian incumbent's cavalier brushoff of the coronavirus threat.
Human rights groups said one person was killed - which the authorities denied - and dozens were injured in a police crackdown on protests that followed Sunday's presidential election.
The country’s central election commission said that with all ballots counted, Lukashenko, who has led Belarus for 26 years, took 80.23 percent of the vote and his main opposition challenger, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, had only 9.9 percent.
Opposition supporters believe the election results were rigged and plan to gather in Minsk for more protests on Monday evening.
"We don't recognize these results," Tsikhanouskaya, a former English teacher and political novice, told reporters Monday.
"According to the data we receive from precincts, we won, and this corresponds with what we saw at polling stations," she said. "People stood in lines at polling stations in order to vote for Tsikhanouskaya. I believe my own eyes rather than the data of the central election commission."
Thousands of people took to the streets in a number of Belarusian cities and towns Sunday night, protesting the early count suggesting Lukashenko’s landslide victory. They faced rows of riot police in black uniforms who moved quickly to disperse the demonstrators, firing flash-bang grenades and beating them with truncheons.
The brutal crackdown followed a tense campaign that saw massive rallies against Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet nation with an iron fist for 26 years. Lukashenko has not yet commented on the results or the protests, only saying on Monday that "the people" should be the cornerstone of any politics, according to the state news agency Belta.